Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the establishment of a committee to study the feasibility of opening casinos in Eilat. The issue is vehemently opposed by the religious parties in the coalition but Netanyahu insists that the measure is needed to rescue Eilat's ailing economy.The Israeli leader held a hearing on the casino issue Wednesday afternoon. Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, PMO director-general Eli Groner, and Ministry of Transport director-general Uzi Itzhaki also attended the session.
“The feasibility study is an attempt to save the city of Eilat from financial collapse and create thousands of jobs,” said the Prime Minister’s Office. “At the hearing, it was decided Ministry of Tourism Yariv Levin will lead a committee, which will include the PMO director-general, Ministry of Transport director-general, representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Security, and the mayor of Eilat.”
The potential complex will include 2-4 casinos, hotels, commercial areas, and restaurants. The government intends to limit gambling by Israelis but allow tourists to gamble to their hearts’ content.
Netanyahu declared at the session that US billionaire Sheldon Adelson informed him that he had no intention of building a casino in Israel.
Bennett and haredim object
Meanwhile, the ultra-religious factions are strongly opposed to the casino venture. Finance Committee chair and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gadni said his faction will object: “We have always opposed this, and we will in the future. Establishing a casino in Israel will have negative social consequences; it will shatter families and cause crime. We wouldn’t allow it in the past, and we will oppose it again.”
The haredi factions have support in Minister of Education and Jewish Home MK Naftali Bennett. On his Facebook page, the minister wrote on Wednesday: “Israel isn’t Vegas and it will never be. We will oppose building a casino in Israel. As the minister in charge of education in Israel who fights every day against the trends harming our youth I will work against the casino. We will teach our children values, not gambling.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 18, 2016
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